By: Aishwarya Iyer – Global Health
As someone who considers themselves a big foodie and lowkey resident expert of the Atlanta food scene, I present to you my top five picks for restaurants, coffee shops, and dessert places near Emory.
- Mushi Ni: this hole-in-the-wall spot is easy to miss, but you don’t want to sleep on it because they serve up the best baos I’ve ever had. I’m also pleasantly surprised by how many vegetarian and vegan options they offer! The flavors are out-of-this-world, trust me when I say you will not be disappointed. Their menu also includes bowls and roti (a quesadilla-like concept). My faves: mushroom bao, artichoke bao, Tokyo fries, tempura fried Oreos with Ghirardelli chocolate dipping sauce.
- Mediterranean Grill: if there’s one thing that Atlanta has proven to do better than my hometown, it’s Mediterranean food, particularly at this place. Medi Grill was voted best Mediterranean food in Atlanta many years in a row, and I can 100% see why. I have never had more authentic or tasty falafel in my life. This place never disappoints, and it’s become my go-to for takeout. (I may or may not have had it every night during a particularly tough week.) My faves: falafel sandwich, Greek potatoes.
- Zunzi’s: I’ve never been much of a sandwich person, but this place shook that right up for me. Zunzi’s serves South African sandwiches, and the fillings are deceptively simple but pack a punch in terms of flavor. I’m also lowkey obsessed with their ziki (tzatziki) sauce. My fave: Johnny Roll (vegan meatball sandwich).
- Curry Up Now: if there’s one thing I’ve really missed about my hometown, it’s the Indian food. The variety and quality was unparalleled, and it was one of those things where I didn’t know how good I had it until I moved away. Anyway, I’ve been searching for good Indian food in Atlanta, and Curry Up Now does it for me. It’s a fast-casual concept but the food doesn’t suffer for it—it’s definitely authentic. It also brings a smile to my face when I walk in to pick up my food and I can hear them speaking Hindi in the kitchen, haha. I can’t speak to the more fusion-style dishes on the menu because I have yet to try them, but you can’t go wrong with a bowl or thali. My faves: samosas, ghee makhni butter bowl.
- Thaicoon & Sushi Bar: Atlanta has a pretty extensive selection of Thai restaurants, and I feel like this one is lesser-known, and it shouldn’t be because they serve really good Thai food and sushi. My faves: pad thai, Bangkok fries.
- Garnet Gal’s Coffee Shop & Bakery: this is one of my favorite coffee shops in all of Atlanta because it’s got the whole package: really good coffee, friendly baristas, delicious sweet AND savory pastries, and plenty of space! They actually opened up during the pandemic, which is wild, and I feel like not many people know about them, which is an absolute shame because it’s too good not to visit. Highly recommend.
- East Pole Coffee Co.: speaking of favorites, this is a close second for me because it’s equally as “got the whole package” as Garnet Gal’s. It’s just a little more well-known! East Pole has both indoor and outdoor seating, and the coffee shop itself is situated right next to a giant indoor workspace with ample cushions and outlets.
- Gilly Brew Bar: okay, so this one isn’t technically as close to campus as the others, since it’s in Stone Mountain, but it’s still only about a 20 minute drive and I promise you, it is worth it. This location is a house-turned-coffee-shop, and its charming vibe perfectly complements the small-town feel where it’s located. The coffee is excellent, as is the hot chocolate. They make their syrups in-house, and it shows. My favorite thing about this spot is the extensive outdoor seating and the hammock swings on the balcony!
- The Corner Cup Coffee: there are two locations, and the Decatur one is closer to campus. It’s a relatively less-known coffee shop and looks pretty unassuming, but the coffee is excellent! Both locations have indoor and outdoor seating, but their Tucker location is more spacious inside.
- Radio Roasters Coffee: this hidden gem is tucked away in a parking lot near the Your Dekalb Farmer’s Market (which is also a must-visit, by the way). They don’t have any indoor seating at the moment, but there are some tables by the front. The coffee is excellent and it’s a great spot for a change of scenery from campus or your apartment.
- Five Daughters Bakery: if you’ve never had a 100-layer doughnut (Five Daughters’ version of a cronut), you are missing out! They have regular and monthly rotating flavors. The layers are so flaky and infused with flavor. Highly recommend treating yourself to one of these after a study session. My faves: maple, vanilla, tiramisu.
- Honey Bubble: Atlanta has a truly amazing boba scene, especially along the famed Buford Highway, but if you’re seized by a craving for boba and don’t want to drive far to get it, then this and the next spot will be your best bets. Honey Bubble has some truly standout flavors, and the drinks are large for the price! My fave: Thai tea (be warned, though, it’s their most popular flavor and they only make one batch per day, so get there early if you want to be sure they’ll have some!).
- Tea Leaf and Creamery: this local spot is literally 5 minutes from campus and serves up an incredible selection of boba and taiyaki (ice cream in a custard or Nutella-filled, fish-shaped cone!). My faves: brown sugar marble bubble, Oreo milk tea.
- Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams: okay, I know Jeni’s is a chain, but STILL. I’ve had a lot of ice cream in my life and Jeni’s is by far THE BEST specialty ice cream I’ve ever had. The ice cream is rich and creamy, the flavor profiles are complex and on point, and their buttery waffle cone made in-house perfectly complements the ice cream. Jeni’s is my new go-to; they’re opening one in my hometown soon and I can’t wait!! My faves: coffee with cream and sugar, salted peanut butter with chocolate flecks, gooey butter cake.
- Alon’s Bakery and Market: you can find a lot at Alon’s, from pastries to food to wine and cheese and other goods, and you simply can’t go wrong. My fave: midnight cake (you’ll thank me later).
It killed me a little to limit this list to just what’s around Emory, because there are tons of amazing spots farther out if you’re willing to make the drive. Still, I figured this would be the most useful and practical, so here you are! I hope this list gives you some inspiration and brings a smile to your face. I’m always down to chat about food, so feel free to hit me up if you have questions or would like more tailored recommendations!